xxxHolic Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: xxxHolic

xxxHolic Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     May 22, 2008
Release Date: May 06, 2008


xxxHolic Vol. #2
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
"From the day you were born, you have always been different from those around you..."

For high school student Watanuki, this statement could not be more true! Between rain without end and ghostly visions from beyond, the young man is getting used to not being used to anything at all. His role as Yuko's minion seems as close to normal as anything, and the haunted teen trudges forth within this strange world of weaving wishes.

Many stop by to peruse the witch's goods, but more often than not the lesson must be learned the hard way. Greed, lies, manipulation, and broken promises. There is always a price to pay...

Contains episodes 5-8:
Game of Letters
Indulgence
Hydrangea
Contract

The Review!
With it becoming more apparent that he belongs to Yuko, Watanuki finds himself being drawn into a number of strange and unusual situations.

Audio:
xxxholicgets a pretty good treatment for its audio portion of the release but it really doesn't seem to get much from the bump. The bilingual release includes the original Japanese stereo mix which is encoded at 192kbps as well as an English stereo mix which is done at the same rate. Both of these mixes are pretty good as the show is dialogue heavy with only a bit of music here and there to add some extra atmosphere. The inclusion of an English 5.1 mix at 448kbps is surprising since it really doesn't seem to gain much from it. Generally areas such as the opening sequences come across as a bit bigger and more vibrant but even this great opening song feels the same as the stereo mix. Dialogue doesn't gain any greater clarity or placement either. All in all, the mixes are good and we had no problems with them during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. xxxholic is a series with a good mix of real world designs that meets the supernatural. The visual design of the show is one that has a good sense of depth to the backgrounds while the characters feel a bit out of place because of the designs. The transfer for this captures it pretty well. The small problematic areas are inherent in the source there as elements like Mokona shows some gradient problems and a bit of noise.

Packaging:
The second installment of the series takes what made the first so appealing and actually makes it better with the use of some incredibly beautiful artwork. The framed imagery of Yuko and the two servant girls works perfectly with their detailed outfits and the colors used for it. Similar to the first volume, there is just a certain kind of class and elegance that comes across from this as we get various small story elements mixed into it as well. This is a very rich looking cover, the kind that you want to have framed on a wall. The back cover takes the general design and reworks it nicely with a brief summary of the premise and a pair of small strips that contains shots from the episodes. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed below it as well as the extras that are on the disc. The remainder of the cover is given over the technical grid - which is really small again - and the standard production credits. The reverse side of the clear keepcase has a full length anime image with Yuko and Watanuki in their kimonos while being flanked by the two girls as they all relax in a very serene setting.

Menu:
Taking its cues from the front cover design, xxxholicutilizes many of the same elements and layout ideas here. The simple black background has the same kind of framing throughout it while the main part of the cover artwork is used as the main visual draw. The navigation strip is kept to the right where it has basic submenu access and the play all selection. Add in a nice bit of music to it and overall it's a fairly standard and serviceable menu that fits into the theme well with a bit of simple style. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate. The disc did not read our players' language presets unfortunately and defaulted to English 2.0 and sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for xxxholicaren't much of a surprise but the couple we get are certainly welcome. In addition to the clean opening and closing sequences, we get a brief image gallery for these episodes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first installment of the series out of the way and the basic setup having been run through, xxxholic falls into the traditional model of basic storytelling and mythos building with this volume. The four episodes don't really break any new ground but they do further cement the kind of world that Watanuki finds himself in now and shows how he's coping with it. Often while Yuko looks on in amusement and tweaks things in order to go her way. Though nothing truly stands out here, they're all very solid stories that expand the character relationships slowly but surely.

With the show being based in the supernatural that creeps into the real world, a lot of what goes on here plays in the realm of the familiar. Not unlike other shows that deal in this, it has a lot of modernized aspects to it as well which helps the legends and traditions of old stay current and morph, which is what such things have always done. The interesting difference in the last century or so is to see how technology and modernization have impacted a lot of these stories, often in ways that make them far creepier and often more violent than they ever were before. More is needed to scare people onto the right path through these kinds of stories than ever before.

One of the more interesting ones revolves around the internet which isn't too much of a surprise. Yuko's ability to find new clients is one that is amusing though, much is Watanuki's surprise when he finds that she even owns a laptop, never mind participates in some sort of magical girl site. Through there she's made some friends that are really just potential clients and Watanuki finds himself going shopping with Yuko for a shiny red baseball bat to take to one. The young woman that he meets is distraught over her inability to give up the internet since it's taking so much control over her life. The storyline is very basic but it's the verbal exchanges that make it so much fun as Yuko really does just tweak the woman into admitting that what must be done is something that only she can do. Yuko can do only so much, but to conquer the inner demon it has to come from within. The ties to the modern are nicely done and it's one of those storylines where you don't see the technological side of it being treated in a really poor way, either in terms of the display of such items.

Tales of the past are very much at hand as well with this set of episodes as it deals in two very classic pieces of supernatural legends. The more Japanese centric of them involves a rain spirit that comes to Yuko in seeking a favor. Though she is offended at the labeling of being a spirit, she plays up a lot of the similar aspects to the classic one that's shown up in many other shows. Her arrival in Yuko's house is rather amusing as it turns into a scene where Yuko firmly establishes her "ownership" of Watanuki and how she uses him to get the jobs done. With a heavy focus on the rain and some beautiful hydrangeas, this episode is very haunting as Watanuki is drawn into that world and finds a little lost girl who is trying to find her way home. The core storyline is one that plays out predictably, but it's the small pieces that really enhance it. The involvement of Doumeki helps to grow their relationship more as well as really making you wonder what makes Doumeki tick as he seems so steadfastly interested in Watanuki. But it's also what the story is really about as it plays out that becomes so fascinating as it all turns into a matter of perspective.

What sort of surprised me with this volume was that it delved into an aspect that isn't traditionally associated with the supernatural in Japan. Watanuki's continual cleaning of the treasure warehouse is something that is amusing as he's hauling stuff out into the yard and complaining the whole time. What it does provide is some air for the items which in turn can draw people in, such as what happens with a college student who is about to start practice teaching at Watanuki's school. She's drawn in by a tube that has a very powerful seal on it, enough so that it doesn't even trigger anything for Watanuki. Yuko's belief about the way things works is that items like this find where they belong so she doesn't stop them from going where they must, and saw the infamous Monkey Paw enters this young woman's life. The tale of the Monkey Paw isn't new by any stretch nor does it play out in any surprising ways here. Not unlike other episodes, it's really the small moments that sell it as you watch the interactions among the main characters as they see events play out. .

In Summary:
With little truly new or groundbreaking, xxxholic has to survive more from its characters and the basic concepts than anything else. Just like the first volume, it all comes together quite beautifully as each episode is engaging even if familiar. The core set of characters interact in a fun way and even the overly active manner in which Watanuki reacts to everything is still fun since it's just over the top. If there's anything this volume was lacking, it was more Mokona than anything else. But even then what we do get is amusing, particularly as Mokona plays a mean game of shiritori. In some ways, this volume of the show will be the tough sell for people who haven't fallen madly in love with it because of its overall story familiarity. What it must do is sell you on the characters and the connection that's being built with them. It's solidly entertaining and the production values continue to be quite good which helps make it a show that goes into our player as soon as it arrives.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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